SocraticGadfly: 8/20/17 - 8/27/17

August 26, 2017

Houston vs #Harvey (blasting Beaumont)

Harvey's projected longer-term path is firming up.
Weather Underground storm tracking map is linked to its updates, is live, not static.
A nightmare scenario first broached by the National Weather Service late Friday seems to be taking firmer shape, per midday Saturday forecasts and projections.

And, per the various sets of updates, the nightmare on rain has already happened and hasn't finished. It now looks like Harvey will ride the Gulf coastline until early Wednesday, eventually making its second landfall somewhere near Port Arthur, and pumping yet more rain into southeast Texas until then, perhaps another 15 inches northeast of Houston, and half that much, at least, closer into the city.

Parts of Harris County were STILL getting half an inch an hour of rain Tuesday morning. An inch an hour was falling to the east and north.

Update 3 p.m. Tuesday
6 p.m. Tuesday  — offshore 60 miles SSE of Galveston
6 a.m. Wednesday — landfall due south of Lake Charles
6 p.m. Wednesday — SSW of Alexandria, Louisiana
6 a.m. Thursday —  Due south of Monroe, Louisiana
6 a.m. Friday —  Oxford, Mississippi

Update 7 a.m. Tuesday — trajectory shifted yet eastward
Noon Wednesday — landfall SW of Lake Charles, Louisiana
Midnight, Wednesday/Thursday — Alexandria, Louisiana
Midnight, Thursday/Friday — above Greenville, Mississippi

Update 10 p.m. Monday — trajectory shifting eastward
6 a.m. Tuesday — Offshore due south of Houston
6 p.m. Tuesday — Closer offshore, due south of Galveston
6 a.m Wednesday — Just offshore of Port Arthur
6 p.m. Wednesday — North of Lake Charles, Louisiana
6 p.m. Thursday — SE Arkansas

Update, 10 a.m. Monday —  There has been a bit of a shift eastward, with the general paths remaining the same. Whether this will make thing better or worse for Houston? It could move rain bands away from Houston, but it could shove some sort of storm surge right up the Houston Ship Channel. In short, Houston is now in a situation similar to that with Ike nine years ago.
6 a.m. Tuesday — Offshore due south of Houston
6 p.m. Tuesday — Closer offshore, due south of Galveston
6 a.m. Wednesday — Near landfall on Bolivar Peninsula
6 a.m. Thursday — On the Toledo Bend Reservoir
6 a.m. Friday — Southern Arkansas

The latest models continue to show an accelerating clear-out after Harvey's second landfall.

And, speaking of "similar to Ike," no, it's not too soon to raise planning issues and the politics related to them.

Update, 10 p.m. Sunday (confirmed on 1 a.m. Monday update) — A bit of saving grace, perhaps. Harvey is expected to gain movement speed after making landfall again. That may mean a little less rain for Houston later in the week, but more before then, and longer over water.
Latest predictions:
Monday, noon — Matagorda or east
Monday/Tuesday midnight — Matagorda Bay
Tuesday, noon — Lake Jackson offshore
Tuesday/Wednesday, midnight — Freeport offshore, making landfall again
Wednesday/Thursday, midnight — East of Huntsville near Livingston
Thursday/Friday, midnight — near Ruston, Louisiana, southeast of Shreveport
Friday/Saturday, midnight — south-central Arkansas

Update, 4 p.m. Sunday — Latest NWS forecast is continuing to firm up and tighten.

By cities of larger size, here are approximates for storm center location through Friday:
Monday, 6 p.m. — Port O'Connor
Tuesday 6 p.m. — Offshore just off Lake Jackson
Wednesday 6 p.m. — Houston dead center
Thursday, 6 p.m. — Nacogdoches
Friday, 6 p.m. — Texarkana

Parts of Houston could get ANOTHER 15-25 inches of rain on top of what has already fallen. Petrochemical Alley could take a big hit.

(Contra a post from Space City Weather, I personally have not seen anybody claiming this will re-intensify to hurricane strength.)

Update, 11 a.m. Sunday: Per the NWS' 10 a.m. Sunday update, it's saying that its predictions from late last night are firming up, BUT, with part of the initial prediction coming back into play.

First, will come the semi-backup, or loop, out to Matagorda Bay. Then, moving inland NNE to NE. In fact, the backup has already started. Current movement is SSE.

Gasoline may become a factor as well. eXXXon is shutting its Baytown refinery. Houston Hobby airport closed. HISD closed all week. Some people are evacuating already.

Update, midnight Saturday/Sunday: now the NWS is saying it will head north-northeast by Wednesday, not due north. Houston not yet totally out of the woods, relatively speaking. NWS latitude and longitude put the eye, tentatively, over Franklin late Thursday night. And, I know where that is (due north of College Station) because I've been there before.

Update, 8 p.m. Saturday: The most recent forecasts, per the updated map, call for it to NOT back out, but slowly head northward.

Otherwise, this appears to be back to worst-case scenario for Houston. Houston ISD is already closing all week.

As of early Sunday afternoon, predictions look like they're starting to firm up for a longer-term path. Harvey should come JUST BARELY west of Houston on a NNE-to-NE path, then track about dead center over Huntsville, then head to Tyler.

Predictions still call for at least 20 inches of rain in the core area and now, as much as 40 inches in spots.

Gov. Greg Abbott was wrong last Friday about thinking Houstonians should evacuate already then. But, looking ahead to Wednesday night at the earliest, Friday morning at the latest, I think he's now shaping up to be right.

Indeed. Some of Houston's major freeways and parkways were reporting high-water closures already on Saturday. Pearland had 10 inches in 90 minutes late Saturday night. And we're a long ways away from next Wednesday.

Especially if you look at this ProPublica/Texas Tribune piece from a year ago, capped by this shorter follow-up specific to Harvey, about how Houston has become engineered by willful stubbornness to be a laboratory for human-induced floods, with elected officials from both Houston and Harris County spineless, and climate deniers running the county's flood control program, 20-plus inches of rain, continuing longer than those from named and unnamed storms of the past few years?

(Stephen Costello, Mayor Sylvester Turner's flood control czar for Houston, also appears to be a climate change denier.)

Not a chance.

Plus, per Weather Underground, if part of Harvey is hanging out over the Gulf for that full trip up to Houston, you'll have a continuous storm surge preventing rivers, creeks and bayous from fully and quickly draining. It's going to be a giant water backup.

Add in that parts of Houston are at, maybe slightly below, sea level to land subsidence from groundwater pumping?

I laugh sardonically now more than ever at former Houston Mayor Annise Parker's claim, while still in office, that Houston would pass Chicago in size in the not-too-distant future.


Chicago doesn't flood and it does have zoning. Something like Harvey, mixed with sluggishness in the energy petrochemicals, oil and gas, sector (ignoring possible damages from Harvey to boot) lack of green energy development in Houston, and Greg Abbott's Texas miracle turning as much to sand as Rick Perry's did, and Houston could get kind of unattractive.

Houston mayors haven't been kleptocratic thugs, unlike Rahm Emanuel. That's about the only thing going for them. And Harris County is simply a hotbed of hackery.

And, I haven't yet even discussed (h/t Brains and Eggs) the fictitious "Hurricane Isaiah" modeled in a New York Times Sunday Review piece a year ago.

Harvey will certainly not be THAT bad. But, it almost surely is going to be far worse than Ike. Ike was nearly a decade ago. Houston, Harris County, and the state of Texas have all had plenty of time to prepare.

And have failed.

No, we're scratching that.

And have refused.

At all levels of government, it's been "open for business" business as usual. Plus climate change denialism, tinged with touches of Agenda 21 conspiracies and more.

Speaking of, the "Isaiah" story gets some things wrong. It doesn't even mention the "carbon tax + carbon tariff" idea that would, contra its claims near the end, force the whole world on one page on climate change. And, rather than mention Houston and Harris County adding permeability and reducing concrete, it touts two different options on Venice Lagoon type dikes or gates.


They might stop an Isaiah, but as the main Pro Publica story shows, they wouldn't do a damn thing to fix rain-induced flooding.

For more on the issues faced by Houston, and how both recent and older politics have contributed, read this collection of articles by the Chronicle.


Related on disorganization/update: Brains says "no," the gov is wrong on the evacuation issue, and links to his personal experience evacuating from Rita. That said, Brains notes that Houston was unprepared for evacuation then. Theoretically, on things like lane counterflow, city, state and county are better set this time. After all, there were evacuations from Ike, which, per Wiki, went reasonably well other than those who refused to evacuate because of the Rita clusterfuck.

And, if you REALLY can't get that many people evacuated? Per Ed Abbey's "growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell," you got too damned many people there.

And, new FEMA head Brock Long (maybe he's also a climate change denier) is also among the politically connected useless idiots:
“You could not draw this forecast up. You could not dream this forecast up.”

Bullshit. Not only do we have ProPublica/Texas Tribune document Houston and Harris County exacerbating flooding, we have, from a year ago, the New York Times Sunday Review with a fictional-for-now essay modeling a Hurricane Isaiah far stronger than this. 

August 24, 2017

"Antifascism" — call it what it is, the #BlackBloc rebranded

Other than this once, just to mention it, I refuse to use the cutesy, pretentious rebranding portmanteau term "antifa."

And, I don't care if you don't like me calling it that. When I announced on Effbook that I was setting my FB Purity filters to screen it out, for those reasons, one person unfriended me. Sorry, but it's true. I won't care if some Green Party Effbook friends eventually also unfriend me for calling out the love some of them have for anarchism in general, whether or not the Black Bloc in particular. I won't care if non-friends among GP Facebookers block me, either.

And, no, this is not just my observation. Several insightful online friends agree that the "antifascism" movement has a largely anarchist core, and one that's detrimental to good liberal, left-liberal and leftist opposition to the alt-right. Noam Chomsky says the same. (I saw an anarchist site try to refute him, but I wasn't convinced.)

The current "antifascist" movement didn't spring up overnight, either, contra some people's claims. It was behind the violence at Berkeley early this year when Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak, for example. (The university noted that non-student outsiders were major drivers of the somewhat violent, very destructive protests.)

Strangely, Chomsky misses the likely Black Bloc-related core of this movement. And it is strange. Either that, or its deliberate, because he felt a degree of sympathy to it in the past.

Now, the Black Bloc is no more an organized movement than the alt-right. But, it has roots going back at least 20 years, to its ramp-up to opposition to the 1998 WTO meetings in Seattle, and its first major American round of destructive anarchism.

Already at that time, I didn't really care a lot for anarchism in the abstract. After that, and some life changes, I definitely did not care for anarchism in the concrete, doubly so as anarchism of the "deed" rather than the "word."

The pretentiousness factor, the street theater factor, continued (in my opinion, along with artsy Adbusters conntections) to the Occupy movement's original New York start. So, too, I think, did the myth of leaderlessness of Occupy have earlier roots. Per a link within that piece:
All that remain are what Occupy began with: A clever jingle or two, and the launching of a handful of anarchist “brands.” 
One of these vile anarcho-marketing brands is a twenty-something hipster named Malcolm Harris. To me, the Occupy Movement will always be conflated with Malcolm Harris and the brand of marketing-concocted “anarchism” that he represents. And that’s bad, because one look at Malcolm Harris—his anarcho-hipster sneer, his marketing-guy hipster glasses—and you’ll be reaching for the nearest can of pepper spray. 
The son of a Silicon Valley corporate lawyer turned State Department diplomat, Malcolm Harris brands himself as the “vanguard” of the Occupy Protests, and I’m starting to agree with him, the more I’ve come to accept that Occupy really was of, by and for the anarcho-marketing crowd. He was one of the very first to capitalize on the marketing possibilities of Occupy, and how he might exploit the marketing and messaging to quickly build his own brand.
And, contra at least one anarchist GPer, I'll take Mark's take on Occupy ahead of his any day of the week and double on Sunday. Ames' final take is: "Never trust an anarchist." Damn skippy.

Obviously, true anarchy, by definition, can't have anything planned. Yet more on the myth of Occupy's leaderlessness here.

That said, this is yet another reason that I look askance at certain Green Party members who touted and toasted the Democratic Socialists of America opening a libertarian "sectional" at its recent national meeting. Some seem to think the GP needs more anarchy, if "only" anarchy of the word as a further push behind their definition of decentralization.

Absolutely not.

To the degree I see a rise in that, that's another thing more likely to lead me to look at the Socialist Party USA more carefully.

This was also one of the few political matters on which I and departed friend Leo Lincourt had serious disagreement. I don't know if his support for anarchy was of the word only, or also of the deed, since health limitations precluded him from personally engaging in anarchy of the deed. But, even anarchy of the word, in any strong sense, I oppose. And, as name-calling actually does hurt kids, at some point, anarchy of the word becomes anarchy of the deed.

So, to most of you antifascists? Grow up. You probably need to do that about as much as many members of the alt-right.

And, beyond that, and per the above, let's get more specific.

Collegiate and post-collegiate hoodlums and hooligans wearing black and smashing glass in Seattle are not your friends. (WTO 1998)

Pretentious Canadian graphic artists charging $10 a pop for their graphics arts magazine largely populated with unartisitic creations rejected by ad shops and others are not your friends. (Adbusters)

Whiter than national average, richer than national average recent MBA and JD graduates butt-hurt that Wall Street wouldn't hire them in the middle of the Great Recession are not your friends. (Occupy, original Zucotti Park, per self-reporting on family income, ethnicity, and education; interpolation mine.)

A leaderless, and proudly leaderless inchoate movement? (Black Bloc, in its original, as far as I can tell; Occupy in myth but not in reality; Adbusters in responsibility shirking; I'll think of more?)

They are ... not your friends.

You then need to read Idries Shah, and internalize this:
To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.
Got it?

Sometimes, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. He or she is only an ally of temporary convenience.

And sometimes, the enemy of my enemy is a second enemy to me.

Got it?

These people are not your friends.

Or, if you think they ARE your friends, if you want them to really be your friends?

You're not my friend and I'm not yours.

Got it?

We've got a fair amount of time until the 2018 midterms and a long way until the 2020 elections. Maybe this will all come out in the laundry. But, I'm afraid it may not.

And, while I've mentioned eyeing the SPUSA, its platform, through this year, is overall worse than the Greens'. It's just as bad on GMOs and worse on other things.

This is an area where Leo was spot-on — the sweet spot between good leftism, good scientific-critical thinking and good secularism is hard indeed to find.

August 23, 2017

Robert Wright writes about religion again (Buddhism), fails again

So, Robert Wright has a new book.

Like his older “Evolution of God,” it applies ev psych to religion, in this case one specific religion.

I won’t bother to read, as I one-starred that previous book for both that reason and the fact that Wright uses his old one-trick pony of “non-zero,” as in applying non-zero sum game theory to religious evolution.

That said, one can derive anthropological-based insights from the best of ev psych, and THEN apply THAT to the study of religious origin and development. Scott Atran and Pascal Boyer, among others, have done it quite well. And Robert Wright can't hold a candle to either.

Besides, I don’t need to review it for another reason.

Adam Gopnik, in a long piece at The New Yorker, has already done the favor both with him, and his somewhat older quasi-paralleling British secularizer of Buddhism, Stephen Batchelor. It's so good I re-read the whole thing.

I agree with Gopnik a LOT on both of them. That said, while still not planning to read the book (I’ve read previous Batchelor, too) I did click link to the Amazon page for Batchelor's one book.

I wanted to look at the one- and two-star reactions.

Funny, most of the people who accuse him of "pillaging" Buddhism for secularist ends most likely do their own pillaging for New Agey ends.

And, this also ignores that the history of all religions is full of pillaging. Today's Hinduism, whether Vedanta or many other branches, isn't the Brahmanism of 2,000 years ago. Today's Judaism isn't the proto-Rabbinic Judaism of 2,000 years ago or the Israelitism of 2,500 years ago and more. Today's "fundamentalist" Christianity isn't that of the pre-Nicene age.

To run Churchill through Marx: "Religion is written by the victors."

That said, my personal, philosophy-of-religion definition of religion remains a basic two-item one.

First: A belief in metaphysical matters that are of ultimate concern to human life. Note that this allows atheistic versions of Buddhism to be — rightly — defined as religion. Note that this also rightly, versus many Gnu Atheists — uses the word "atheist(ic)" as what it is, not a synonym for "irreligious."

Second: A set of praxis and/or dogma that is developed to rightly "align" believers with these matters of metaphysical concern. Note that this allows for both what are called "orthodoxy" religions and "orthopraxy" religions.

So, Buddhism — if not stripped of ALL metaphysics, is a religion. Certainly, it originally developed as one. Brahmanism of circa 500 BCE believed in some form of reincarnation and karma. Most versions of Buddhism today, setting aside things like Pure Land Buddhism that believe in a one-off afterlife, not reincarnations in a cycle. And, though not really having a dogma, Buddhism does indeed have a praxis. (Note to meditating New Agey Westerners — most Buddhism in its homeland still has plenty of other praxis for the laypeople, most of whom don't have the time or the inclination for meditation.)

This, then, gets to my earlier comment.

Wright isn't offering up Buddhism. He's offering up "Buddhist secularism." Per good linguistics, the noun is controlling, the adjective is modifying.

In a discussion with David Hoelscher on a Facebook page, I say the same. Ditto for what we should call “Jewish secularism” rather than “secular Judaism.”

That said, what about “secular humanism”? Shouldn’t it really be called “Christian secularism,” at least in some cases? I’m thinking primarily of non-Wiccan/pagan Unitarian churches and similar.

Shows that “cultural Christianism,” per Samuel Huntington, Rodney Stark and others, still dominates American culture, that we don’t do that.

One doesn't have to be a Gnu Atheist to critique — critique to the point of heavily criticize — Wright.

And, that all said, regular readers of this blog know that I am in general unfriendly toward attempts to pass Buddhism off as something it is not. Above all, that's when it's done by — speaking of "secular Judaism" — so-called BuJews.

August 22, 2017

TX Progressives: Remove the monuments and read our roundup!

This Lee statue in Dallas needs to be moved, and the park renamed.
The Texas Progressive Alliance supports the efforts to get rid of Confederate monuments, saluting UT for the four it moved Monday, as it brings you this week's roundup.

(Per James Loewen's detailed "Sundown Towns," I know the perfect place to store all those statues, too. It's a little slice of Texas sundownery called Vidor.) *

Off the Kuff notes a new lawsuit filed to protect spousal benefits for Houston city employees against an assault by anti-LGBT zealots.

SocraticGadfly writes about another personal experience with age discrimination.

Texas (aka Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton) are going to take their chances with a new, conservative Supreme Court rather than have the Lege redraw Congressional and statehouse maps ruled unconstitutional for the umpteenth time, reports PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Texas Republican legislator thinks running over protestors should be encouraged.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks he and his party are deplorable.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston remembers a time when not all Republicans were, or seemed, racist.

Lewisville Texan Journal notes Amy Manuel will reportedly be the first Democrat in 30 years to run for Denton County Clerk.

As always, Neil at All People Have Value took part in the weekly protest outside the Houston office of wicked-doing Senator John Cornyn. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Michael Li breaks down the redistricting ruling.

RG Ratcliffe wonders if the Republicans are going to start running the Lege like they do Congress.

Pete Von Der Haar rounds up ten movie scenes in which white supremacists get their butts handed to them.

Better Texas Blog calls the Senate-modified version of HB21 a step in the wrong direction that pits education against health care.

The Texas Living Waters Project calls for proactive drought response plans.

Texas Vox celebrates the end of the special session.


* = A majority of the public wants them to stay; a moderately strong minority says move them and a smaller minority is unsure, per Reuters.

August 21, 2017

Green Party — decentralization or disorganization?

I have, in my critique of the Green Party's Ten Key Values and elsewhere, said that one of my main problems with the party is the "decentralization" plank.

That's regardless of different interpretations of what the plank means.

That said, though, many Greens seem to take a maximalist view of the plank. As in, a maximalist interpretation of how much decentralization it allows.

Besides ixnaying the potential for robust federal government action on thing like climate change, if there ever were a Green president and she or he took such a view of decentralization, within the party, it causes other problems.

In essence, it allows various state parties to become private fiefdoms. As I've said before, many, from what I see, are like the old British version of rotten or pocket boroughs in the Commons 200 years ago.

And finally, at The North Star, somebody totally gets it! Although I don't agree with all of his digressions into Marxist theory, and the piece is in general a long read indeed, on organizational issues, Andrew Stewart is spot-on.

Start with this:
We essentially have a situation now where there is an organization in Washington DC that calls itself the Green Party of the United States and carries on with pretenses of being a national presence but which in reality is just one of multiple individual state parties that have absolutely no de facto coordination mechanisms with a central authority and other parties. It is possible for sister parties to communicate via email forums but the structure of decentralized democracy makes decision making far different than the style of previous Left political parties.
Bingo. (Emphasis mine.) 

The Green Party US, as in the national party, is nothing more than another state party. And, things like this contribute to the national party having various pants-crappings. (Stewart is very much with me in his take on David Cobb and the AccommoGreens.)

Several things from Stewart.

It's a pretense that it's a national party. And probably, that pretense is another thing connected to the GPUS/GPUSA split.

Second, no coordination. So, if the national party won't pay for Jill Stein's AccommoGreens recount, she'll get a state party to back her.

Third, no central authority.

Greens have a clear object lesson (besides the current state of the national party) when you have something that (allegedly, in this case) has no central authority.

The Occupy movement.

It, too, got jack shit done.

Or, to look back at the last election, per Tom MacMillan? The Oklahoma Green Party, going beyond Stein's personal endorsement of him before the California Democratic primary, formally endorsed Bernie Sanders. Before that state's OWN primary. As in "We're Greens, declaring ourselves irrelevant. And stupid."

The party claimed it was due to the state's repressive ballot access laws. Bullshit, multiple times. First, they can't be more repressive than Texas, can they? Second, surely, you can have a caucus and convention if you can't have a primary. Third, if you couldn't do that, you still don't need to endorse one Dem over another.

Per MacMillan and along that line, Colorado Greens, in a state that should be more sympatico to a Green Party than Oklahoma, were arguably even worse. And, they didn't like Tom calling them about. But, contra Andrea Merida Cuellar and others, and their link, he was right (or more right than wrong) and they were wrong (or more wrong than right). Writing 1,000 words about the Colorado Democratic presidential caucus and how Berniecrats were running out of hope and how they could consider jumping ship after hope was exhausted?

To coin a phrase? That is "lesser evilism" at work.

At a minimum, one could write a Green Party state-level appeal to Sandernistas without an in-the-weeds, inside-baseball 500-word section about how the Colorado Democratic presidential caucus operates.

Beyond that, for me, I would have mentioned foreign policy issues in that appeal and said something like: "If you really oppose American imperialism, the Green Party is the only choice." In other words, tell them to start voting Green now, ignore the Democratic Presidential caucus and move on because — Bernie is a Democrat. (And he is, in reality.)

I'm not sure the Colorado Greens were as off-base as MacMillan claims, but, if that link is the best defense they can offer, they were at least a bit off-base.

(Note: This is not in any way a taking of sides in the Cuellar vs Cobb-Stein events at this year's GP national convention.)

And, per a comment Stewart had on MacMillan's piece? Occupy was probably not much more than left-neoliberal, and selfish graduate-school whites, as self-polling indicated, and I blogged about.

That said, I disagree with MacMillan in condemning fusion candidates, period. I'd cross-endorse a Dem IF they checked all major lefty check boxes.

That said, back to Stewart's main piece. This:
The Green Party needs to actualize itself as a national party by suborning the multiple state parties to the Green Party of the United States.
Is the bottom line.

I doubt it will happen in or by 2020.

Which means I move closer yet to either the Socialist Party USA or not voting.